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January 2021

Desperados III

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Mimimi Productions
Release Date: June 16, 2020

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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Desperados III'

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 12, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Desperados III is a real-time tactics game that lets players command a band of Desperados led by fan-favorite gunslinger John Cooper, who’s hunting down his nemesis.

Pre-order Desperados III

A video game convention is always a celebration for the industry, especially for local developers and publishers. Gamescom was a good time to highlight a few new and notable German announcements, such as a continuation of the real-time strategy series Desperados by developer Mimimi Games and publisher THQ Nordic.

Taking over a series that has not seen an entry for over 10 years is no small feat and has to come with its own set of design philosophies. Is this created as fan service or as something new and daring? Where does the title fit in the context of the series? Having seen an early demo of the game in action, we can say that Desperados III tries hard to honor and continue its roots as best as it can.

The Desperados series is a character-driven strategy game focusing on the adventures of John Cooper in the Wild West. The gameplay has always been hard but straightforward — stealthily invading or escaping a compound and completing objectives within a large-scale map that's littered with enemies who will mow you down if given the chance. The first trailer for Desperados III captured the general gameplay quite well, showcasing that quick save is your friend and trial and error is an integral part of the gameplay experience to figure out how to beat or resolve a given situation.

In the mission shown to us during Gamescom, we take control over two characters, John Cooper and Hector, as they take on a few bandits in a small saloon. Cut scenes are detailed but play out in the same isometric view as the general gameplay. As a result of our little bar brawl, we have to get out of the surrounded saloon and take care of — read: kill — one of three lieutenants associated with the bandit group. If you have played any of the Desperados games, this will feel very familiar.

While the visuals have made a more than noticeable jump in the last 10 years, especially when zooming in, the general aesthetic and gameplay look and feel similar enough from a distance to be Desperados. This translates to the general gameplay loop as well. Each of our characters has special traits and skills we can use to get out of our situation. John Cooper wields double pistols and has throwing knives, while Hector is a bull of a man who can carry bodies or wield an ax that can take down heavy enemies without a problem.

The game is about tactics and stealth, so we have to be aware of our surroundings and, most importantly, our enemies. Enemies still have visibility cones, and staying out of them is vital. The cones are comprised of two areas: one where you are immediately seen and one where your visibility depends on whether you're crouching. There is a moment of mercy, as crossing the cones doesn’t equal being detected right away, but takes a second or two to register your whereabouts. If you’ve ever played a Desperados game, you know this is a vital inclusion, as the experience can get very tough early on.

It is a trial-and-error sort of game, as you have multiple characters at your disposal, and all encounters can be solved multiple ways with different characters. The environment is equally important when planning out your approach. In our demo, the western city has civilian areas where we could roam undetected, even with enemies present — since carrying guns was not an oddity back then. We can scout the adjacent areas and even listen to civilian conversations that may provide vital insight in how to approach our task. In our case, we waited outside a house that harbored our next target. With a bit of patience and scouting, we were able to deduce that the fella had a weak spot for whisky, provided by the sizeable cask in his cellar. A very appealing opportunity to poison that cask arose.

Watching the level play out on-screen stirred up some nostalgic feelings — and a bit of worry. Desperados III seems to be a very solid extension of the original series, including some improvements, but it looked too similar to what I remembered. Time will tell if the third entry can manage to step beyond fan service and revitalize the series on a basic level.

After we successfully positioned our target (and reloaded several quick saves in between), we jumped ahead to a later part of the game, which took place in the swamps. It's an area that's almost twice the size of the previous map and would take players three hours to complete, and it steps up the challenge significantly. Patrols guard the dry areas, pushing us into the muddy and wet regions of the map, which create a lot of noise and footprints that eventually alert nearby guards. The lack of civilian areas make this even more dire and increase the challenge. Desperados III isn’t interested in accessibility or an easy mode; it wants to be a challenging experience, which I am glad about and truly respect.

I'm glad to see the Desperados series and its gameplay have aged well. We are still far away from a finished product, but what we have seen makes me optimistic that Desperados fans, at the very least, will get more of what they crave when Desperados III launches sometime next year.

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